When I was a child, my parents owned and operated a small country restaurant along with two gas pumps called A-1 Truck Stop. And note that I said “A ONE Truck Stop” not “Trucks Stop” as our parking lot could only reasonably accommodate one decent sized truck! Even though our business name was A-1 Truck Stop, the vast majority of our customers were tourists who drove automobiles.
As early as I can remember, I had chores to do around the truck stop, such as taking out the garbage, clearing tables, sweeping, mopping floors, and basically anything that needed doing.
But, what really looked like fun to me, was helping out at the gas pumps! At the age of 4, I started going out to our full-service gas pumps with my Dad to wait on and serve customers. He would fill their tank with gas, check their oil and water, check the tire pressure, wash their windshield, headlights and their back window as well. I started helping by washing headlights and as I got bigger, I’d wash the windows. And, by the age of 10, I was big enough to pump gas and handle the customers all on my own. I remember feeling pride in the fact that I could do all this on my own. And every time a car drove up, I jumped at the chance to go and pump gas.
And as I look back at it, my siblings and I all chipped-in like that. Very seldom did we have to be told to do something by mom or dad, and if so, telling us only once usually sufficed! We were taught that a part of being a member of our family was to help do what needed to be done. The other factor for me was, I always wanted to please my parents, and I’m certain my sister and two brothers felt the same way. If a table needed to be bussed, the first person to see it just did it. And, when a car would drive up to the gas pumps and we’d run out to see how we could help them. It came naturally to attend to their wants and needs.
Occasionally, we would get a tip of a nickel or a dime tipped a nickel or a dime - which motivated us to give excellent service. Tourists from up North were sometimes taken-a-back when one of us young kids said “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Maam!” They would comment, “Kids up north don’t say “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Maam!” And they would tell our parents how much they appreciated our politeness and the service they’d received! The proud look, and often a hug, that Mother and Dad would give us was even better than the tip itself!
Because my parents started us on this path from a very early age, my siblings and I learned to do all these things instinctively. And I’ve always believed that learning these lessons early, wired us for success later on.
So when I saw a research study that said there was a correlation between early childhood self-sufficiency and financial stability in young adulthood, it caused me to smile. The study went on to say that approximately 85% of brain development occurs before age 5. Teaching children how to do tasks (such as making their own breakfast, getting themselves ready in the morning, having set chores, etc.) and letting them do these things for themselves, gives the child the confidence and teaches them to become more independent. It ‘hard wires’ them with a propensity for self-sufficiency. In contrast, parents that do everything for their children demonstrates to the child that they are not trusted to do things for themselves and makes the child insecure and more dependent on the parent.
It is quite interesting that some 60+ years later, that a recent research study has validated what my parents did instinctively. Their 50’s Waldo Wisdom still holds true today. Ann Landers must have been from Waldo too, because she famously wrote, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do that will make them successful human beings.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the success my siblings and I have today comes from the blessing of having very wise parents.